(PU) The White House moved today to protect Americans from nuclear accidents and attack by buying up rights to alarming facts pertaining to those subjects. Speaking to an enthusiastic audience of the unemployed, President Obama announced that, in the wake of federal approval of $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to build two new nuclear reactors, the U.S. government will begin to secure patents on the dire warnings of global catastrophe that have long plagued the nuclear industry.
Mr. Obama said that these gloomy, “anti-nuke” predictions — radiation poisoning; mass outbreaks of cancer; permanent genetic damage; the capacity of fuel from even one reactor to make a bomb more devastating than all the explosives in World War II; the extinction of life on this planet, etc., etc. — can now be legally managed by the Department of Energy, as a form of intellectual property for which nuclear naysayers would have to pay hefty copyright fees.
“For years, scientists and doctors have been blah-blaming about medical dangers and meltdowns,” stated the President. “They claim that nuclear byproducts, released into the air and groundwater, cause cancer. That might have been true back in the ’80s, when Helen Caldicott was young and public condemnation of nuclear power was at its height. But recent Democratic National Committee polls have shown that it is these horrifying nuclear statistics themselves that pose the real danger.”
Citing recent DNC studies indicating that higher profits create greater safety, the President continued: “Did you know, for instance, that just hearing someone say, ‘Cesium-137-in-the-air-or-groundwater-remains-active-for-600-years-and-locates-in-muscle-fiber-producing-sarcoma’ can give you cancer? Now, with our intellectual property laws, we can legally minimize these health risks, while curbing carbon emissions with nuclear energy.”
Although the administration’s renewed push for nuclear power is intended to increase employment and the supply of “clean” energy, it remains an open secret that Mr. Obama is also using this “nuclear renaissance” to court broader Republican support.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu explained, “Our strategy is simple. We steer the public away from negative facts like how fossil fuel is essential to every stage of the nuclear energy cycle, and how we still haven’t figured out how to safely store growing tons of radioactive waste. Instead, we focus on upbeat messages like how totally great it is that the word green rhymes with clean.”
While admitting that the two words do rhyme, most Republicans remain unmoved by the administration’s efforts. “I still think Obama’s a socialist,” said Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. “If he was really serious about clean energy, he’d send Helen Caldicott and all those other solar-powered terrorists to Gitmo.”
Despite a cool Republican reception, the Obama administration’s efforts to buy the rights to negative information about nuclear power may actually pay off in the next election. Many American voters, already lacking jobs, homes, and healthcare, say they would welcome “big government” interference, if it were to stop them from thinking about other, more horrific things, especially nuclear things, which they hardly ever think about anyway.
“Sometimes I catch myself almost worrying about strontium-90 in my milk, or a terrorist attack on a reactor,” admitted out-of-work barber Troy Burns of Troy, NY. “Then I remember that I’d have to pay royalty fees if I complained out loud about all that, so I stop. Not that I’m totally off science. Like, don’t you think it’s cool, how they figured out King Tut died of malaria?”
Actually, under the new patenting guidelines, Troy Burns would be charged only a minimal fee for disseminating negative information that is already well documented. He would, however, incur a much heavier fee for describing appalling nuclear disasters that have not yet come to pass. Legally, therefore, Mr. Burns would be permitted to describe deposits of strontium-90 in baby teeth for about the price of a large order McDonald’s freedom fries. Conversely, it would cost him approximately two new cooling towers if he were to publicly decry the possibility of some terrorist flying a plane into New York’s Indian Point nuclear plant.
Predictably, the issue of patents on harrowing nuclear data has attracted its share of shrill First Amendment detractors. “It’s my right as an American to talk about nuclear winter,” asserted Muffy Wentworth, Sierra Club member and author of the book Nuclear Winter: Sure Way to Beat Global Warming!
“Besides, there’s no need to pay royalties on dread nuclear factoids,” added Ms. Wentworth. “As long as we have a first strike policy, I feel Americans are justified in going into deep psychological denial about all kinds of horrible things, including nuclear bombs detonating, ensuing global firestorms with gale-force winds, followed by interminable years of darkness and drastic cold. Personally, if I’m feeling a little rage or grief, I just turn on TV and watch the Violence Channel.”
The concept of nuclear winter, like similarly inconceivable nuclear calamities, is also discounted by a growing body of market-driven data suggesting that, if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s never going to happen.
President Obama would be the first to agree.
Susie Day is Assistant Editor of Monthly Review.